Voluntary Conservation and Stewardship Highlighted on Capitol Hill

Published on Mon, 03/14/2016 - 5:35pm

Tracy Brunner, NCBA President

Recently, Frank Price was in Washington testifying before the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Conservation and Forestry about voluntary conservation efforts that farmers and ranchers undertake every day on their operations. Frank was a great spokesman for the cattle industry as a member of both the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association. Moreover, as the 2014 Environmental Stewardship Award national winner, it provided another opportunity to highlight the value of that program and the ways cattle producers work with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, state and local extension, and grazing lands initiatives to enhance and build healthy grazing pastures. With increased pressure from so called environmental groups and agencies trying to enforce one size fits all approaches to healthy rangelands, Frank’s message that individual voluntary efforts are the most successful could not have been more timely. The fact is that the diversity of rangelands, weather, cattle operations and cattle operators present each ranch with unique challenges and opportunities for conservation. What works for one operation or operator does not necessarily work for his neighbor, let alone a ranch across the country. The plains of West Texas and the high plains of Montana and the Dakotas are a world apart. The success of government programs like the Environmental Quality Incentives Program are their inherent flexibility. EQIP operates on a cost share and provides incentives to producers implementing conservation practices. This allow producers and NRCS to build and program and make changes based on specific conservation needs. As Frank said, “economic activity and conservation go hand-in-hand.” The success of conservation efforts increases range production, enhances stocking rates, makes range more tolerant to drought and provides healthy rangelands for future generations. Whereas a prescriptive top-down regulatory approach and government mandates tie producer’s hands and stifle innovation. With so much rancor between producers and government regulators, I appreciate the members of the Agriculture Committee taking the time to recognize the success of the collaboration we do have. The USDA NRCS actively works with producers to achieve healthy rangelands. Producers are the best stewards of their lands and have a vested interest in preserving those lands and a sustainable future. Cattlemen and women graze cattle on approximately one-third of the nation’s land mass, much of that is private property. Voluntary conservation programs that offer a partnership with the government allow ranchers to proudly participate with the people of the United States to reach everyone’s environmental conservation goals. Tracy Brunner is the NCBA President and 4th generation on his family operation located in Ramona, Kansas. He has served as president of his family corporation since its inception in 1988. Tracy manages the feedyard and the yearling grazing operation. He also oversees the cattle and grain marketing decisions, commodity risk management, customer relations, and financial reports. Tracy’s family also operates a seed stock enterprise raising bulls and replacement heifers for many ranchers throughout the U.S.